Wednesday 13 December 2023

COP28: UK climate minister slammed for leaving summit early

COP28: UK climate minister slammed for leaving summit early

The UK climate change minister has flown back from the COP28 summit in Dubai despite the conference reaching crisis point.

Graham Stuart left the UAE city on Tuesday morning to take part in a Commons vote on the UK Government's Rwanda bill.

A government spokesperson confirmed: “Minister Stuart has returned to the UK to attend Parliament in his role as an MP.

“There will continue to be full official representation on the ground at the Summit, including by Lord Benyon at Ministerial level.

“Minister Stuart will continue to be the lead UK Minister for negotiations and remains in constant contact with the UK Lead Climate Negotiator and Lord Benyon, with any final decisions agreed with him.”

Minister Stuart was slammed for his departure from the climate negotiations, which were due to end on Tuesday but have overrun.

'PM saving own skin than saving the planet'

Green MP Caroline Lucas said: “The government’s last shred of moral authority in tackling the climate emergency has been obliterated by this scandalous decision to leave COP28 negotiations at the most critical moment.

“Adding insult to injury, if true that the minister is leaving the summit in order to vote in favour of the utterly immoral Rwanda deal, it shows that Rishi Sunak prioritises saving his own skin over saving the planet.”

'Can't fight to provide climate leadership'

Shadow Climate and Net zero Secretary Ed Miliband added: “Graham Stuart flying home in the middle of critical negotiations tells you everything you need to know about this Conservative government. They are weak, divided and chaotic and can’t stand up and fight for lower energy bills for the British people, can’t stand up and fight for investment into our country, and they can’t stand up and fight to provide climate leadership.

“The sad truth is that, thanks to Rishi Sunak tanking Britain’s reputation on the world stage, many countries simply won’t even notice that his minister has disappeared.”

'Putting short term party politics ahead of securing long term solutions'

Catherine Pettengell, Executive Director, Climate Action Network UK (CAN-UK), said: “In the closing hours of COP27 the UK passionately called for a phase-out of fossil fuels to keep 1.5C alive, but we did not get the agreement that year – and we come here to COP28 to finally get that outcome.

“Now, at the absolute crunch point of talks, the Minister Graham Stuart, is high-tailing it back to London to put short-term party politics ahead of securing long-term solutions to a global existential crisis.

“Delegates from Rwanda are here pushing for ambitious action to protect their country and people from worsening climate impacts. Meanwhile, the UK government is doing deals that put people at risk of harm, including return to the very oppressive regimes they were fleeing from when they sought sanctuary in the UK.”

'Weight of ministerial interventions much needed'

Gareth Redmond-King, Head of International Programme at the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU) added: “This COP could be the last real chance to bridge the gap to keep 1.5°C alive, and yesterday’s text demonstrably was not on track to do that, adding nothing to the pledges made in week one, which the IEA say get barely a third of the way there.

“The UK has its own gap to bridge - between some domestic backward steps and its ambitious negotiating position in COP. And the weight of ministerial interventions, particularly at a crucial stage of proceedings like this, is much needed if higher levels of commitment to tackling climate change are to be secured from this COP. Other countries have already raised serious questions over the UK’s climate leadership, concerned by its actions and words since the high point of COP26.”

Written by

Sumit Bose

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